1. Dear Larissa, dear Ulrike, I am very pleased to be able to introduce you and ZOÉ LU as part of our Female Founder Community. Please feel free to tell us a little about yourself and your company.

We are a handbag start-up from Munich and have brought a convertible handbag onto the market. Our ZOÉ LU is a classic saddlebag model with a 'changeable flap'. The special thing is that you can attach and remove the flap on the back with a zipper, meaning you can change it. This means you can completely change the look of the bag and have one bag – many pockets. We have around 40 different flap models, as well as different shoulder straps - short chains, long & wide leather straps, long chains... etc. So you can put together your own high-quality designer bag. We combine the 'practical' with the 'beautiful' and our bag has many advantages at second glance:

  • You no longer have to rearrange the contents of your bag. Everything always stays in the saddlebag body. You just change the flap.

  • Storing the flaps takes up significantly less space than storing entire bags, which is practical in the wardrobe but also for traveling. The flaps can be easily laid flat in the suitcase.

  • It's more sustainable than buying 'whole' bags. A flap only uses 30% of the resources compared to a whole bag.

  • In the long run it is also cheaper than 'whole' bags. We have a high-quality leather bag - buying just one flap is of course cheaper!

  • A great gift. Men especially love our bag because they now always know what they can give as a gift.

2. Many young founders start their business alone, but are looking for co-founders. What makes a good founding team for you?

Of course you have to get along very well, because you spend an incredible amount of time together and you go through ups and downs together. With us you have to say - we've been 'best friends' since we were 14. We went through personal and professional ups and downs together. This has brought us even closer together. And, we are great friends but very different. I, Larissa, am rather fearless and 'just do it' - Uli, on the other hand, is more of a safety-loving person. In this respect, we complement each other very well. And neither of us would want to do our business with anyone else. And not alone either. Joy shared is double joy and sorrow shared is sorrow halved! There is no one who understands the worries as well as someone who is involved and no one who is on the outside can understand the joy as much!

3. In 2019 you and ZOÉ LU were guests on the TV show “Das Dinge des Jahr”. How did you come to this? How did you prepare for this?

Oh yeah wow - we were sooooo nervous! We had 500 live viewers and had to present to Joko Winterscheid and Lena Gercke, among others! I was worried that I would get tangled in the dress when I took it off!

We had prepared our performance with a vocal coach. Everything was practiced over and over again so that it didn't come across as 'rehearsed'. I even printed out the jury's heads and hung them on the wall so that they wouldn't be so strange to us during the performance! It would be utopian to think that this could be done spontaneously. You really have to practice this, otherwise you would fail miserably on stage =)

And yes, that gave us a lot of notoriety. The show had over 1.5 million viewers and we had 66,000 visitors to our shop at the same time that evening. It was crazy. An exciting experience and for us the best thing that could have happened to us! And, I had secretly registered us on a 'whim'. We barely had any sales in the summer of 2018 and I thought to myself - we have to do something to get known. Everyone who gets to know our idea thinks it's great and becomes a customer - but not enough people know us!

Yes, that's how it happened that we received the invitation to the casting two weeks after registering. The trailer was shot in November, recorded in the studio in January 2019 and then broadcast in March 2019. And, I can only recommend everyone to at least try it. The whole ProSieben team was super nice and helpful! They supported us and gave us tips wherever they could and tried to take away our excitement.

4. What is the craziest thing that has happened to you since founding ZOÉ LU?

Our first, somewhat coincidental collaboration with a blogger. That was basically at the same time as our registration for 'The Thing of the Year'. As I said, we sold almost nothing in the summer of 2018 and I was really sad and frustrated. Thought, crap - maybe we really have to look for design commissions again and do other work. I had no desire to do that at all. Up until that point, our influencer marketing was still very unprofessional and we didn't have the right plan for how to approach it, and we also disagreed about it within the team.

And then a blogger approached us after seeing our Instagram ad. She was so enthusiastic about the idea that she wrote to us. That rarely happens. At that time she already had around 55K followers. Uli was on vacation, as was Jennifer, our co-founder at the time. And the blogger came to my office. We chatted about the bag and she was super excited and wanted to introduce our concept to her community. I then naively said to her, 'You're welcome to have a bag and 2 flaps, plus 2 shoulder straps, but I don't have the money for it' - haha. She said, should we perhaps create a discount code for my community? We didn't really want that at ZOÉ LU, but then I remembered that we didn't sell anything in August and gave her a 20% code.

At home she posted a 20 minute story about our bag on Instagram. She talked so much about our concept and shared it with enthusiasm that her followers sold us out within a few hours!

That was crazy! We couldn't believe it! Uli and Jennifer called me from vacation: “Larissa, what have YOU done!?!?!” That was too funny and it opened our eyes that influencer marketing works. Since then we have been doing it more professionally - and successfully!

5. Winning over a customer once is great. Winning over the same customer again is even better! What three tips do you have on how to build long-term good customer relationships?

Phew, it's actually 'easy' for us, because once you start with ZOÉ LU you have to keep going :) A different bag makes more sense. We regularly release new flaps, straps and bag body colors. Soon there will be new bag sizes that will fit our current flap and towards the end of the year there will also be other bag types and we will expand our concept. We will also continue to launch products that suit us. This means that all products must offer real added value and be beautiful. Like our wallet, for example. It has a removable inner part that you can take with you when you go out if you don't want to have all your valuables with you.

Of course we work with email marketing, which works very well for us because people don't want to miss out when we have something new. Then, as I said, we do influencer marketing very successfully. Plus, of course, performance marketing. We are now also starting YouTube and Pinterest ads. Let's see how this goes.

Of course, cross-selling in our shop also makes total sense. Because it is often difficult to decide. We definitely want to improve this and bring customers the right bundles and suggestions that go well together. We also have to make it easier to get started, for example. Customers are overloaded and can't decide where to start.



If you would like to find out more about Larissa, Ulrike and ZOÉ LU, please take a look here:

To the website: www.zoelu.com

To Instagram: @zoelu_official